Statement by His Excellency Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed,

Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives

at the

United Nations Security Council Open Debate on

"Preventing sexual violence in conflict through empowerment, gender equality and access to justice"

United Nations, New York, 16 April 2018

Thank you Madam President,

I wish to thank the Government of Peru in its capacity as the President of the Security Council for the month of April, for convening this important Open Debate. Ten years ago, the Council adopted Resolution 1820, that recognized that sexual violence is being used as a tactic of war, and therefore, can be included in the category of war crimes. This open debate provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress made, and evaluate the way forward in implementing the Council's Resolutions that aim at preventing sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations.

The Maldives strongly condemns how sexual violence is being "weaponized" through targeting victims based on ethnic, religious, or political affiliation, which destroys social cohesion, leading to forced displacement, and deprivation from economic resources. We note with concern that the failure to address these issues has led to desperate recourse of more harmful magnitudes, including child marriage, withdrawal from educational and employment opportunities, and resorting to commercial sexual exploitation.

While we are pleased to note that progress has been made in a number of countries, we must ensure that this progress is based on evidence about the reality of the situation on the ground. Ensuring that all cases of sexual violence are reported is crucial in strengthening justice mechanisms and accountability. Unfortunately, the majority of these cases remain unreported due to the social stigma often attached to the victims of the crime, fear of reprisals, or the systematic barriers and obstacles that the victims have to overcome. Increased awareness about the nature of the crime, changes in taboo social perceptions, and having an efficient and reliable framework to identify sexual exploitation are necessary to establish the first step to end impunity and ensure accountability.

We also note that there are commonalities in the recommendations for these countries, including strengthening legal frameworks, provision of access to justice as well as socioeconomic support for victims, strict screening and training of armed and security forces, and strengthening frameworks to enhance cooperation with the United Nations to enhance prevention and response measures.

Most of the victims are women and girls from marginalized rural communities, who do not always benefit from full legal protections, and often have cultural taboos regarding sexual violence. Therefore, not only should Member States strive to extend the reach of the rule of law to all communities, but also ensure that the law itself provides protection to the victims through alignment with international human rights standards on sexual violence and abuse. We believe that greater representation of women in governance, especially those from rural communities, would raise the profile of these issues, and facilitate positive change. In addition to this, we also support community mobilization campaigns through community and religious leaders, aimed at shifting the stigma of sexual violence from victims to perpetrators.

Madam President,

We wish to underscore the responsibilities that armed forces and peacekeeping operations have in preventing sexual violence in conflict. It is important not only to ensure training in international humanitarian and human rights law in the specific context of sexual exploitation, but also establish strict monitoring and accountability within these systems to prevent abuse by these actors themselves. In this regard, we are pleased to note that all UN peacekeeping operations with mandates on protection of civilians have established monitoring arrangements and incorporated early-warning indicators of conflict-related sexual violence.

The Maldives supports the Secretary General's preventative approach, and we believe that early-warning indicators could help prevent sexual violence in conflict prone areas, in addition to post-conflict situations, and that this should be factored in when evaluating risks to peace and security in the Council. In this regard we wish to emphasize the importance of ensuring adequate funding for sexual violence programmes in conflict-affected situations.

Madam President,

It is clear that sexual exploitation and abuse is not just a consequence of conflict, but it can also be a "weapon" that exacerbates conflicts. Addressing the root causes and ending impunity is the key to ensuring that this heinous crime is brought to an end. We all need to work together to find shared solutions to ensure that all women, men, girls, and boys whose lives are already tarnished with conflict, are not permanently scarred with the consequences of sexual violence.

I thank you Madam President.